Recently a gifted young anabaptist pastor, Shane Hipps, weighed in at Out of Ur blog about whether or not cyberspace provides “community.” He says “No” and I’m wondering what you think? Here is my response. Can “community” exist in cyberspace? In what senses can it and in what senses can it not?
Your point about not equating virtual community (grant me the
term for the moment) with real community is one that needs to be heard.
But, I’m not so sure it is this simple…
First, as a blogger who has what I have sometimes called the Jesus
Creed “community,” I do think there are some senses in which community
is apt. For some, this is about the only “community” with Christians
they can right now have. I honor that. For others it is therapeutic to
dance, as it were, at a distance — not the complete thing, of course,
but still participating in some dimensions of community. And there is
another dimension: there are clearly dimensions of fellowship at work
in blog communities. Never the whole, but some. And that needs to be
considered for what it really is.
But now something perhaps more significant: by shrinking community
to embodied community I wonder if we have written “communion of the
saints” (a community) off the map. Isn’t there something eternal,
something spiritual, and something profoundly true that all Christians
of all ages and of all locations are in communion with one another?
This means it may be appropriate to refer to internet communities as a
participation in the communion of the saints (I have experienced this
with some folks whom I’ve gotten to know at some levels via internet
and via e-mails and via parcel post letters) and as virtual
I would agree with you that some substitute virtual for real at
their own loss; I would also agree that some think they are the same.
But I wonder if it is not swinging too far the other way to deny the
word community to what can happen — palpably so for many — in